Period Poverty


The CWU is campaigning to make period products free and universally accessible.

Period poverty is on the rise in the UK with charities reporting individuals using newspaper or socks to deal with a period, because they can’t afford to pay for period products, and an estimated 137,000 young women and girls missing school every year because they do not have the products they need.

In the fifth richest country in the world this is completely unacceptable – but this issue is not simply about poverty, we need a human rights approach to periods.  On average a woman, or person who menstruates, will spend nearly £5,000 over the course of their lifetime on period products. We see no reason they should be forced to bear this cost to deal with what is a natural biological process.

The CWU is therefore calling for:

  • Free universal access to period products
  • VAT to be abolished on period products for those who chose to buy sanitary wear

The campaign so far

A motion calling for the union to campaign on period poverty, put forward from CWU Women’s Conference, was unanimously agreed by CWU General Conference in 2018. Following on from this the union took the campaign to Labour Women’s Conference where our motion was again unanimously agreed.

We are now working with Labour in Westminster to explore opportunities to move this forward in the UK Parliament. The CWU is also supporting Monica Lennon, Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), in her work to introduce universal free access to period products in Scotland.

At the same time, plans are being made for a meeting of our industrial groups so that examples of best practice in the workplace can be shared and a strategy agreed to encourage employers to do the right thing. For our part, we have made period products freely available at CWU HQ and Alvescot.

What you can do

As plans progress we will offer carefully timed campaign actions for you to take and help build support for new legislation. For now, there are a few simple actions that will help us make a start.

  1. Write to your MP and/or MSP (in Scotland) or Assembly Member (in Wales) on the issue or lobby them on social media tagging in @CWUnews and the hashtag #makeperiodproductsfree. Template letters and tweets are available from the equality department
  2. Ask your local council to provide free period products in public buildings as councils around the UK are starting to do. A template letter is available from the equality department
  3. Ask your Constituency Labour Party to pass a motion supporting free universal access to period products. A template motion is available from the equality department.